Breaking Tradition With "Alias"


Every Fourth of July holiday since 1996, I've watched the movie "Independence Day" -- usually on the 4th itself, but sometimes the day before or day after if it was on a weekend -- sometimes even going as far as to watch the movie multiple times (most notably in 1996 itself, when I saw the movie in theaters seven times between July 2 and July 4).

However, this year, I broke from that tradition. I had plenty of time to watch the movie, in pretty much whatever format I want (I own it on VHS, DVD and Blu-ray), but instead I spent the weekend catching up with an old friend: the TV series "Alias."

A few days ago, I saw a tweet from former "Alias" star Kevin Weisman. That tweet that had NOTHING to do with the show, but it sparked some positive memories of "Alias", and so I decided to rewatch it from the beginning. Since I last watched "Alias" when it went off the air, I've probably watched the entirety of every Joss Whedon series at least twice, and even watched every episode of "Lost" multiple times, but I've completely ignored the "Alias" DVDs sitting on my rack.


As of this writing, I'm eight episodes into Season 2, and I remember why I love this show. Sure, a large part of its appeal was in the hotness of Jennifer Garner (and her frequent costume/wig changes), but it was also week-in-week-out compelling drama and witty dialogue. It was easy to get confused by some of the overlapping mysteries, but the interwoven espionage plots of at least Seasons 1 and 2 really do hold up to multiple viewings.

Actually, Season 1 does much more than "hold up". Having not watched it since probably 2003 or 2004, I was pleasantly surprised to remember just how good it was. I would argue that aside from the "clip" episode (episode 17, "Q & A"), there wasn't a single bad episode in that entire season. The impact of Sydney Bristow appearing on screen with that shock-red hair in that first episode hasn't been lessened at all by the passage of time. It's still one of the more iconic images from any series in the past decade.

Garner is obviously the star, but I'd argue that Victor Garber carries the dramatic storyline of the first season. He's such a strong presence that you can't help but feel intimidated by him, which is exactly how you're supposed to feel (since, as the viewer, you're supposed to identify with Sydney). I also love how he evolves throughout the first season and into the second, eventually gaining Sydney's trust, losing it again, and then gaining it back, all while dealing with the ongoing conflict with his ex-wife.

Also, when I re-watched the series, it struck me to see just how young Bradley Cooper looked, particularly in the early episodes. In my mind, I had this vision that he always looked exactly like he did in "The Hangover", but that really wasn't the case. Sure, you can tell it's him, but it's definitely not the SAME Bradley Cooper we know today. He was, however, just as good of an actor back then, and the character journey of Will Tippin was one of the more fun ones to watch in the show's first two seasons, even if it did get really shitty for him at times.

I'm not sure at this point if I'm going to go much further than Season 2, since the show markedly changed in Season 3 (then changed AGAIN in Season 4, and one last time in Season 5 before finally being cancelled). But after watching them again -- at least part of the way -- I'd put the first two seasons of "Alias" right up there with any TV series I've ever seen.

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